Amazon unveils prototype of Rivian-built electric delivery van

Robert Channick
Chicago Tribune

Your Amazon package may be arriving in a custom-built Rivian electric delivery vehicle by next year.

Amazon unveiled a prototype Thursday of one of three electric vehicles being developed in partnership with Plymouth-based EV truck manufacturer Rivian. The online retail giant expects to have 10,000 of the Rivian electric delivery vans on the road worldwide by 2022, ramping up to the full 100,000 order by 2030.

Electric vans made by Rivian are expected to be making deliveries for Amazon by next year.

Rivian CEO and founder RJ Scaringe said in a news release the vehicle “is not just electric” but prioritizes safety and functionality for package delivery.

Features of the boxy, high-tech electric delivery van include a large windshield, exterior cameras offering a 360-degree view, hands-free navigation guidance, three levels of shelving and what Rivian calls a “dancefloor” inside the cabin for easy package retrieval. It has brake lights wrapping around the rear of the vehicle to warn of frequent stops.

The prototype sports an Amazon nameplate on the front grill.

Founded 10 years ago, Rivian is developing electric trucks at a converted Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Ill. Delayed by the pandemic shutdown, it is planning to begin production of its inaugural consumer models – a pricey, high-performance electric pickup truck and SUV – next summer.

The driver for the Amazon deal, struck in September 2019, is a pledge by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to create a delivery fleet that helps the company achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040 – a decade ahead of the Paris Agreement.

Amazon initially invested $440 million in the Michigan company in February 2019, and has participated in “multiple investment rounds since then,” Rivian spokeswoman Amy Mast said.

The company has raised about $6 billion from investors, mostly recently closing a $2.5 billion investment round led by T. Rowe Price on July 10.

The Rivian plant has 500 employees on site, with plans to double its ranks early next year as it gears up to begin production, Mast said.